There are restaurants which evoke a strong sense of nostalgia, even if you've never dined there before. You can look around at the picture-lined walls or the spots near the counter where the linoleum has rubbed away and know that you are only a small speck of the humanity that this place has served over the years. It's a sense of perspective that's both startling and comforting.
It's how I felt the first time I walked into C&D Burger Shoppe in South Houston. I'd never eaten there before, but it seemed like coming home. And it's how I feel every time I walk into Bellaire Broiler Burger, where even my many years of accumulated memories are no match for the decades more that seem to cling thickly to every surface in the restaurant. (Although it's more likely that those are just years of broiler grease build-up.)
And even though Houston isn't the type of city to tenaciously hold onto, or even build upon, its [relatively] short history, there are at least a few restaurants left in town where you can step back in time and catch a glimpse of how life in the Bayou City used to be.
Honorable Mention (because there are just too many good places to list): Another Time Soda Fountain in Rosenberg, New York Bagel & Coffee Shop in Meyerland and LaKing's Confectionery in Galveston, a must-visit during any trips to the Strand.